Where were you on Election Day?

I hope that you were vot­ing and mak­ing your voice heard. Around the coun­try, vol­un­teers from SAALT and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions from the Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty were at poll sites, pro­tect­ing the vote and learn­ing more about the vot­ing choic­es and bar­ri­ers faced by Asians. It was my first time being an elec­tion mon­i­tor and I was assigned to a poll site in Sil­ver Spring, MD (which is in the sub­urbs of Wash­ing­ton, DC). It was an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence on a num­ber of lev­els. First and fore­most, it was very pow­er­ful to see so many peo­ple after they had exer­cised their right to vote. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a long, and some­times emo­tion­al, elec­tion cycle and you could feel the excite­ment in the air.

I saw a lot of peo­ple with smiles on their faces. Anoth­er notable trend was fam­i­lies com­ing in to vote togeth­er in which the chil­dren were vot­ing for the first time. As they filled out sur­veys, I could see the pride in the par­ents’ eyes. I moved to the Unit­ed States when I was twelve years old. My fam­i­ly had pre­vi­ous­ly lived in Sau­di Ara­bia, which was an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence all around, but there was a pal­pa­ble dif­fer­ence when we came to Amer­i­ca. This was a place where peo­ple set­tled, not just a place to pass through. It was not imme­di­ate, but Amer­i­ca became home. And when I became a cit­i­zen in 2006, I was old enough to have real­ly cho­sen become an “Amer­i­can”. I knew when I said that oath in the cour­t­house in Chica­go that, in a fun­da­men­tal way, my place in the world had shift­ed.

Even though I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vote in the 2006 midterm elec­tions, I was beside myself with excite­ment about vot­ing in my first pres­i­den­tial elec­tions: to be mak­ing this huge, mean­ing­ful choice along with my fel­low Amer­i­cans (a deci­sion that I knew from per­son­al expe­ri­ence rever­ber­at­ed well beyond the US) was some­thing I had looked for­ward to for a very long time. In my fam­i­ly there are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, per­ma­nent res­i­dents, H1‑B and stu­dent visa-hold­ers and Bangladeshi cit­i­zens. I vot­ed absen­tee in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, so it was­n’t the whole Elec­tion Day expe­ri­ence, but when I stood in my lit­tle vot­ing booth, I felt my whole fam­i­ly there with me and I did my best to make sure my vote reflect­ed that.

I don’t know if it is the same for oth­er immi­grants and chil­dren of immi­grants, but the very act of vot­ing felt like some small but vital por­tion of my par­ents’ dreams and my dreams becom­ing a real­i­ty. Being an elec­tion mon­i­tor and see­ing peo­ple of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, of dif­fer­ent ages and socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus­es seemed a qui­et and pow­er­ful affir­ma­tion of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy at work. On a very prac­ti­cal lev­el, being there to help doc­u­ment any prob­lems or issues with vot­ing helped me con­tribute to a bet­ter under­stand­ing of Asian Amer­i­cans as a vot­ing pop­u­la­tion. This infor­ma­tion not only helps us under­stand our com­mu­ni­ty bet­ter, it informs pol­i­cy­mak­ers and politi­cians about the issues that mat­ter to us. I know that I will remem­ber Novem­ber 4th, 2008 for the rest of my life and I hope that the work that I and all the oth­er elec­tion mon­i­tors can make a sim­i­lar impact on our com­mu­ni­ty’s future.

We’re going to put up some more posts about peo­ple’s expe­ri­ences with elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing so keep a look out for them.

What Do I Need to Bring to the Polls? and Document the Vote!

It’s almost here! Elec­tion Day! After a rather long pri­ma­ry sea­son, this elec­tion is com­ing to close in the most excit­ing way pos­si­ble. Vot­er turnout is expect­ed to be quite impres­sive and if ear­ly vot­ing is any indi­ca­tion Amer­i­cans around the coun­try are excit­ed (and com­m­mit­ted, with ear­ly vot­ing loca­tions in some states hav­ing wait times in excess of SIX hours) about hav­ing their say this elec­tion. So for every­one get­ting ready to vote on Elec­tion Day, make sure that the ID require­ments in your state don’t keep you from cast­ing a bal­lot. Lookup your state’s ID require­ment on www.866ourvote.org.

Also, while you’re wait­ing online, doc­u­ment the vote, take pic­tures or video of how vot­ing looks in your com­mu­ni­ty. If you have any inter­est­ing sto­ries to share about first time vot­ers or the excite­ment in your fam­i­ly or cir­cle of friends about vot­ing, we want to hear about it. Are you vot­ing, get­ting out the vote, or mon­i­tor­ing at the polls on Elec­tion Day? Bring a cam­era or video­cam­era with you to doc­u­ment pic­tures and sto­ries of South Asian vot­ers. Send pic­tures, video, writ­ten reflec­tions, quotes and more to saalt@saalt.org by Wednes­day, Novem­ber 5th at 5PM!

Here’s an inter­est­ing PSA I found that real­ly under­scores how mean­ing­ful the vote is, it may take a cou­ple of hours (so I sug­gest bring­ing a book… and maybe a fold­ing chair) but going out and vot­ing remains sig­nif­i­cant long after Elec­tion Day.

Make sure your vote counts on November 4th!

This is a real­ly great video that out­lines how impor­tant it is to make sure that your vote counts on Elec­tion Day. There may not be enough vot­ing machines, your name might not be in the vot­er rolls, you may get asked for ID you don’t have to vote. So its very impor­tant that you know what your rights are, it can be the dif­fer­ence between hav­ing your say on Elec­tion Day or not.



More­over, by know­ing what vot­ers have a right to expect, you can make sure that those around you, vot­ing at your polling place, vot­ers from your com­mu­ni­ty and more! Vot­ers can con­front a num­ber of prob­lems at the polls, from poll work­ers who are not knowl­edge­able about the rules to dif­fi­cul­ties with lan­guage and Eng­lish bal­lots to unfair treat­ment based on race or eth­nic­i­ty. Remem­ber:

-Check your state’s vot­er ID laws to make sure that you have the prop­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to vote
‑If you or any­one you know needs help inter­pret­ing the bal­lot, it is your legal right to bring an inter­preter into the booth with you
‑If your name is miss­ing from the rolls, you have a right to vote using a pro­vi­sion­al bal­lot
     Want to learn more about your rights on Elec­tion Day, check out this SAALT resource

If you encounter or wit­ness any bar­ri­ers to the right to vote, call 1–866-OUR-VOTE.

 

 

South Asians in the 2008 elections

How have South Asians been get­ting involved in the 2008 elec­tions? How have the ways that South Asians been involved in the civic and polit­i­cal process changed or evolved? What kind of vot­er turnout can we expect from the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty on Elec­tion Day? What’s at stake for South Asians in this elec­tion?



Hear the answers to these ques­tions and more in “South Asians in the 2008 elec­tions,” SAALT’s pre-elec­tion webi­nar. We were joined by Vijay Prashad (Trin­i­ty Col­lege Pro­fes­sor of Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies and the author of Kar­ma of Brown Folk among oth­er works), Karthick Ramakr­ish­nan (one of the main col­lab­o­ra­tors in the Nation­al Asian Amer­i­can Sur­vey), Seema Agnani (Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Chhaya CDC, a com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment non­prof­it based in Queens, New York), Ali Naj­mi (Co-founder of Desis Vote in New York) and Aparna Shar­ma and Tina Bha­ga Yoko­ta (Mem­bers of South Asian Pro­gres­sive Action Col­lec­tive in Chica­go). The full video of the webi­nar is here<http://www.saalt.org/categories/South-Asians-in-the-2008-Elections-Online-Webinar-/>. Stay tuned for SAALT’s post-elec­tion webi­nar, dur­ing which guests will dis­sect the elec­tion results, report the find­ings of mul­ti­lin­gual exit polling and look for­ward to the tran­si­tion to the new Admin­stra­tion and Con­gress.

History Repeating Itself: Xenophobia in Political Discourse

With mere­ly one week until Elec­tion Day, it seems like can­di­date stump speech­es, pun­dit com­men­tary, and the vol­ley of talk­ing points from all sides are every­where you turn. And if you’re any­thing like me, you’re trans­fixed to cable news and media analy­sis about what’s been hap­pen­ing on the cam­paign trail.

Here at SAALT, we’ve been keep­ing a spe­cial eye on what’s being said in this high­ly-charged polit­i­cal atmos­phere par­tic­u­lar­ly as it relates to the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. In recent years, we’ve unfor­tu­nate­ly wit­nessed a spate of xeno­pho­bic com­ments being made against our com­mu­ni­ty with­in polit­i­cal dis­course. Such rhetoric has emerged in var­i­ous forms, includ­ing chal­leng­ing the loy­al­ty of those who are or per­ceived to be Mus­lim. Sad­ly, this hear­kens back to the sen­ti­ments and actions that led to bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion against South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, and Arab com­mu­ni­ties in the after­math of 9/11 and raise con­cerns about the over­all envi­ron­ment lead­ing up to elec­tion. We encour­age the com­mu­ni­ty to remain vig­i­lant about such rhetoric.

Be sure to check out SAALT’s three-part toolk­it on xeno­pho­bia in polit­i­cal dis­course, which includes com­ments made by polit­i­cal fig­ures against the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty, remarks made against South Asian can­di­dates for polit­i­cal office, and tips on how com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers can respond to such rhetoric, which have been fea­tured by UC Davis Law Pro­fes­sor Bill O. Hing over at Immi­gra­tionProf­Blog.

Do you know your rights on Election Day?

Are you required to show your ID to vote?

What do you do if you need help trans­lat­ing the vot­ing mate­ri­als?

Want to know what the answers to these ques­tions are? Then read “
Elec­tions ’08: Know Your Rights on Elec­tion Day”! This new SAALT resource out­lines what vot­ers can expect at the polls like what poll work­ers allowed to ask for and what pro­vi­sions pro­tect your vote. Check it out along with all the oth­er SAALT Elec­tions ’08 resources at www.saalt.org/pages/Elections-2008.html

Second presidential debate tonight!

With four weeks left till Elec­tion Day, the pres­i­den­tial race is heat­ing up! The sec­ond of three pres­i­den­tial debates is tonight at 9pm EST, so I hope every­one’s popped their pop­corn, read up on their elec­tion cov­er­age and gen­er­al­ly made their debate prepa­ra­tions, because I think its going to be a good one. This debate is in the “town­hall” style where ques­tions are going to be asked either from a pool of unde­cid­ed vot­ers or by mod­er­a­tor, Tom Brokaw, from ques­tions sub­mit­ted via the inter­net. There are some pret­ty spe­cif­ic rules about the town­hall (for instance, peo­ple who asked ques­tions will be filmed ask­ing the ques­tions but not react­ing) and there is also no fol­low-up ques­tions or direct ques­tion­ing between the can­di­dates. Regard­less, it promis­es to be an excit­ing view­ing so I hope every­one tunes in! Check it out on any num­ber of net­works and cable sta­tions at 9pm ESt/8pm CST/6pm PST.

If you want to read more, check out a post from the Chica­go Sun-Times, here <http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/10/mccain_obama_deal_puts_limits.html>

What Do I Need to Bring to the Polls? and Document the Vote!

It’s almost here! Elec­tion Day! After a rather long pri­ma­ry sea­son, this elec­tion is com­ing to close in the most excit­ing way pos­si­ble. Vot­er turnout is expect­ed to be quite impres­sive and if ear­ly vot­ing is any indi­ca­tion Amer­i­cans around the coun­try are excit­ed (and com­m­mit­ted, with ear­ly vot­ing loca­tions in some states hav­ing wait times in excess of SIX hours) about hav­ing their say this elec­tion. So for every­one get­ting ready to vote on Elec­tion Day, make sure that the ID require­ments in your state don’t keep you from cast­ing a bal­lot. Lookup your state’s ID require­ment on www.866ourvote.org.

Also, while you’re wait­ing online, doc­u­ment the vote, take pic­tures or video of how vot­ing looks in your com­mu­ni­ty. If you have any inter­est­ing sto­ries to share about first time vot­ers or the excite­ment in your fam­i­ly or cir­cle of friends about vot­ing, we want to hear about it. Are you vot­ing, get­ting out the vote, or mon­i­tor­ing at the polls on Elec­tion Day? Bring a cam­era or video­cam­era with you to doc­u­ment pic­tures and sto­ries of South Asian vot­ers. Send pic­tures, video, writ­ten reflec­tions, quotes and more to saalt@saalt.org by Wednes­day, Novem­ber 5th at 5PM!

Here’s an inter­est­ing PSA I found that real­ly under­scores how mean­ing­ful the vote is, it may take a cou­ple of hours (so I sug­gest bring­ing a book… and maybe a fold­ing chair) but going out and vot­ing remains sig­nif­i­cant long after Elec­tion Day.

http://www.youtube.com/v/o4kg514DcTA&hl=en&fs=1

Voter registration deadlines are coming up so GET REGISTERED!

Civic and polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion are core val­ues here at SAALT. While its impor­tant to be engaged on a con­sis­tent basis, not just dur­ing elec­tion cycles, no one can deny that the act of vot­ing is one of the most mean­ing­ful expres­sions of demo­c­ra­t­ic par­tic­i­pa­tion. There’s been a lot of talk about this elec­tion, and there’s noth­ing wrong with get­ting swept up in the excite­ment of the pres­i­den­tial race.

If you need any addi­tion­al con­vinc­ing, check out this video:

The Vice Presidential debate is tonight!

So the first (and only) Vice Pres­i­den­tial debate is tak­ing place tonight. There’s been a lot of chat­ter, in the blo­gos­phere, the main­stream media and, undoubt­ed­ly, in more than a few per­son­al con­ver­sa­tions, about the impor­tance of this debate. Con­sid­er­ing that this is the only time we will be able to see Sen. Joseph Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin face off, I am hop­ing that peo­ple tune in. The debate will be mod­er­at­ed by Gwen Ifill, who mod­er­ates Wash­ing­ton Week and is a senior cor­re­spon­dent on New­sHour with Jim Lehrer. Ifill also mod­er­at­ed the 2004 debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards in 2004. I think its going to be an excit­ing two hours and I hope every­one tunes into all the major chan­nels at 9pm EST.